By Danny Franks
What Is a First-Time Guest Team?
Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but I think your church’s first-time guest team may be the most strategic and the most fruitful when it comes to designing a weekend experience that honors people and helps them take their next steps toward Jesus. You might call your team different things: welcome center, information booth, or next steps area.
This team is so important because they have the most face time with guests. The team acts almost as a personal concierge for the guest, serving as an advocate on their behalf to make sure that they know where to go, have basic questions answered, feel comfortable finding their way around an unfamiliar location, and know where to come for more information. It’s no wonder that the volunteers who serve at our church’s first-time guest area are considered some of the first people that our guests count as their friends at the church.
How Does It Work?
We try to figure out exactly what a guest would want to make their experience run smoother and help them get there. It’s a lot of point A to point B work, but it ends up being very effective.
Imagine that you’re arriving at your church, have parked, and are directed toward the first-time guest area. It’s you, your spouse, and your 2.5 kids. One volunteer approaches mom and engages her in conversation, one kneels down and makes eye contact with the kids to make them feel at ease, and one hands a clipboard of information to dad.
This conversation is crucial, because it helps assess where a guest is and where they need to be. As these volunteers find out more about our guests, they’re finding out more about how to best serve them that morning. For example, if they have smaller kids, we’ll talk to them about our kids area, security procedures, offer to take them on a brief tour, and even help them get set up on our check-in system.
We intentionally overstaff our first-time guest area because we don’t want to engage in conversation then point guests away from us. “Hey, it was nice meeting you. Now go through those doors, take a left, go down the hallway, hang a right, and maybe if you’re lucky you’ll find the auditorium.” We want volunteers to be able to peel away and stay gone as long as they need to to make the guest feel like they can get around with some amount of knowledge. They’ll help them find the auditorium, restrooms, or whatever they need. And they’ll let them know where they can be found after the service, just in case the guest has any more questions.
Because our first-time guest volunteers are usually the last ones to see guests when they go in, they’re usually the first to see them when they come out. And there’s nothing that I enjoy seeing more than a first-time guest volunteer spotting a guest, remembering their name, and calling out to them to see how everything went. You can see the guest’s eyes light up and the look of surprise register on their face as they realize that this volunteer really took the time to learn their name.
These volunteers lay the foundations for relationships at your church. Develop a framework for how a first-time guest team could best serve the guests in your community.